The sunshine that blanketed Mashashimuet Park at the start of the Greenport-Pierson baseball game Monday afternoon was long gone as Mark Pagano stared down the final batter in the seventh inning, the Porters clinging to a one-run lead.
A dense fog drifting across the south shore had settled in, adding an extra element for the fielders to deal with as they tried to close the book on a third straight victory.
The fog may have impaired the view on the field, but one thing remained perfectly clear as Pagano dropped a curve ball in for strike three on the final Pierson hitter: the Porters have begun to hit their stride.
After dealing with various obstacles during an 0-5 slide to start the season, the Porters completed a three-game sweep of Pierson Monday with a 3-2 road victory in Sag Harbor.
“We battled back,” said Greenport coach Mike Reed. “Now we’re back to .500. We’re back where we should be.”
The Porters were swept by Bishop McGann-Mercy in their first League VIII series, losing two games by one run, including a game that featured two no-hitters. Their fortunes turned around against Pierson, as the Porters won all three of their games by one run.
Pagano was a huge reason for two of them. He started and won the final two games of the series, a rare feat considering two games in a series are rarely close enough to allow a pitcher to throw twice.
Pagano threw a complete game April 20 in a 2-1 victory. And Read called on him again in the series finale, choosing to save the Porters’ other top pitcher, Shaun Hansen, for their next series opener against Smithtown Christian. Monday’s game was pushed back from Saturday because of rain.
It worked out for Greenport. Pagano gave up two runs (one earned) in another complete game effort that also saw him go 2-for-4 at the plate with a pair of runs.
Pagano admitted he was nervous about having to face the same team twice in a row.
“I knew it’s a big challenge to do that,” he said.
Pagano came into the game focused on using more off-speed pitches.
“They had already seen how hard I throw and everything,” he said. “I needed to alter it up a little to get them a little off balance.”
Pagano gave up seven hits and struck out five. He did not walk a batter.
With the game on the line the final three innings, he buckled down with some of his best pitches of the night.
Pierson had a runner reach third with one out after a high fly to right field. The Porters had a great shot at throwing him out at third, but the relay throw from the outfield was dropped. Pagano settled in and got the next batter to pop up to second base and he then fielded a short tapper back to the mound to throw out the next runner.
He had one runner reach in the sixth with two out, but he promptly picked him off first to end the inning.
“Your heart’s racing,” Pagano said of pitching in these close games. “You know they have a great offense and you just want to make sure you locate your pitches. Luckily today I was pretty sharp.”
The Porters had their offense going early. They scored twice in the first inning and again in the third. But they struggled to cash in later in the game, keeping the pressure on Pagano and the defense to keep Pierson off the scoreboard.
Sean Charters drove in the first run with a fielder’s choice that scored Pagano, who doubled to left-center to open the game. With two out and Charters on second after a stolen base, Bryant Rivas singled past second to bring in the second run.
Pierson (5-4 League VIII, 5-6 overall) answered with a run in the second. Greenport went back ahead by two in the third when Michael Reed flared a ball into shallow right field, bringing in Pagano.
“Our whole lineup is hitting now,” Pagano said. “In the first couple of games our offense was pretty stagnant. But now everyone’s clicking. We’re bonding well.”